December 2002
Volume 2, Issue 10
Free
OSA Fall Vision Meeting Abstract  |   December 2002
Uncertain humans in a structurally certain world: attentional leaking with 100% valid postcues as seen by classification images
Author Affiliations
  • Steve Shimozaki
    Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, USA
  • Miguel P. Eckstein
    Department of Psychology, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
  • Craig Abbey
    Biomedical Engineering, U. C. Davis, Davis, CA, USA
Journal of Vision December 2002, Vol.2, 138. doi:10.1167/2.10.138
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      Steve Shimozaki, Miguel P. Eckstein, Craig Abbey; Uncertain humans in a structurally certain world: attentional leaking with 100% valid postcues as seen by classification images. Journal of Vision 2002;2(10):138. doi: 10.1167/2.10.138.

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Abstract

In a precueing task, observers must detect a signal appearing at one of several locations, with a precue indicating the most likely signal location. Typically, valid precues (indicating the correct signal location) lead to better performance than invalid precues. While cueing effects have been interpreted as evidence of a limited capacity attentional mechanism (e.g., Posner, 1980), several authors note that the task suffers from the problem of structural uncertainty (Sperling & Dosher, 1986; Kinchla, et al., 1995; Shiu & Pashler, 1995). In particular, an ideal observer also predicts a cueing effect, calling into question the role of limited capacity in this task (Eckstein, et al., 2002).

The precueing task can be supplemented with 100% valid postcues, thereby removing structural uncertainty. Several studies still found precueing effects with 100% valid postcues (e.g., Dosher & Lu, 2000; Luck, et al., 1996; Hawkins, et al., 1990), appearing to strengthen the argument for a limited capacity attentional mechanism operating at the (post)cued location. However, this argument depends upon the assumption that humans also act without structural uncertainty. To assess this question, we measured classification images for a precueing task with 100% valid postcues. Observers performed a contrast discrimination of Gaussian blobs (sd = 8.3min) in image noise (sd = 11.7% contrast) at 4 or 8 locations, with a precue validity of 62.5%. Observers nearly always correctly localized the postcue, and localization was not hindered by invalid precues. Despite this, we found that some observers had substantial classification images at the invalidly precued location (‘attentional leaking’), indicating that these observers were using information from that location. These results suggest that precueing effects with 100% valid postcues may not completely reflect limited capacity attentional changes at the postcued location, and instead may reflect observers acting with structural uncertainty in a task without structural uncertainty.

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Eckstein, M. P, Shimozaki, S. S., & Abbey, C. K. (2002). The footprints of visual attention in the Posner cueing paradigm revealed by classification images. Journal of Vision, 2, 25–45.

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Shiu, L. P., & Pashler H. (1994). Negligible effect of spatial precuing on identification of single digits. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 20, 1037–1064.

Sperling, G., & Dosher, B. A. (1986). Strategy optimization in human information processing. In K R. Boff, L. Kaufman, & J. P. Thomas (Eds.), Handbook of perception and human performance: Volume 1. Sensory processes and perception (pp. 2-1 – 2-65). New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Shimozaki, S., Eckstein, M. P., Abbey, C.(2002). Uncertain humans in a structurally certain world: attentional leaking with 100% valid postcues as seen by classification images [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 2( 10): 138, 138a, http://journalofvision.org/2/10/138/, doi:10.1167/2.10.138. [CrossRef]
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